The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shephard

If you are familiar with the story of Dr. Moreau, then that saves us some trouble. He was accused of heinous crimes of butchery in the medical community when his experiments went past the limits of decorum and modern societal standards. Run out of London, he left behind a wife and daughter. Left to bear the brunt of his shame, there were few options left to them, and soon the daughter was alone.

One misfortune led to another, until Juliet Moreau, only daughter of a supposed madman, is out on the street. No job, no where to go, and in fear of her next action. It is then that a figure from her past seems to come to save her: Montgomery, the boy she grew up with, and always cherished. He is in London on her father's business, and she begs to be taken with him.

Reluctantly, he concedes and they set out for the island. On their sea voyage, they encounter a shipwrecked man barely clinging to life. Juliet again convinces Montgomery to let him join them. To this, Montgomery takes a stronger stance to the contrary, but eventually relents. None are sure how the Doctor will take all this, but Juliet hopes for the best. She has not seen her father for years, never received a letter, nothing. How will he take her sudden appearance?

Arriving on the island she is struck by the queerness of the islanders. Each has something not quite right about them, even if she can't quite point out what it may be. Her father is ever the same, and spends most of his time in his lab. She is unable to bring herself to admit what may or may not be happening in his lab, and fears what it means that his blood runs through her veins.

This is compounded by the confusion she feels whenever she spends any amount of time in close proximity to either Edward or Montgomery. The former throws her off guard, and unsettles her, but she is drawn to him in a way that both scares and excites her. There is a darkness in him that calls to her own. Montgomery is the boy she has always wanted, but is he still that person? Does he even want her?

An interesting take on the traditional tale of Dr. Moreau, and planned to be a series, I always enjoy strong female characters. Juliet was raised with medical knowledge. Despite her hard knock life, she has found a way to survive. She rejects out of hand her father's idea that a man will come along and save her. (Admittedly, this is due in part to her own insecurity.) When faced with something she finds to be wrong, she does what she can to make it right. She is far from an Amazon, but there is a quiet strength that I enjoyed. Fans of romance will enjoy that aspect in this title as well.
“I rested my forehead against the wall and closed my eyes. It wasn't just my curiosity, or my fascination with anatomy, or how I could unhesitatingly chop a rabbit’s head off with an ax when a roomful of boys couldn’t. Those things were all symptoms of the same sickness - a kind of madness inherited from my father. It was a dangerous pull in my gut drawing me toward the dark possibilities of science, toward the thin line between life and death, toward the animal impulses hidden behind a corset and a smile,” (Shephard, 2013).
*Library Link*

If you liked these, check out:
Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shephard (Madman's Daughter, Book 2)
Control by Lydia Kang
The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells

Shepherd, M. (2013). The madman's daughter. New York: Balzer + Bray.

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

2073: Eric has come to Blessed Island to research the rumor that the inhabitants seem to be living for an excessively long time. There is no evidence to support this claim, and yet, the rumor persists. It is believed to have something to do with the Dragon Orchids that grow exclusively on the island.

Upon his arrival, it seems clear this is not a normal place. No cars, no internet, no hotel even! The inhabitants of the small island are very hospitable, and even provide him with a place to stay, and food to eat, free of charge. The youngest person he meets, Merle, looks to be around his age. There are no children whatsoever. He also can't seem to find any sign of the orchids he has heard so much about. Strangest of all, he seems unconcerned about it. His mind grows foggy at times, and he forgets what he has come to the island to do entirely. The charger for his device (containing all his notes for work) has disappeared. Something isn't right.

Time continues to roll backwards through the book. Our next vignette is from 2011. Same island, different characters..but there seems to be something familiar.

We go back once more to 1944: the war is on - while the island itself remains neutral - no one is safe form the violence. A lost pilot is rescued by a reluctant family. Again there is familiarity, in a name, in an action.

1902: The turn of the century brings us to the home of a young girl and her mother, known for her skill in preparing medicines and potions from herbs. Primarily she used the dragon orchid. One day while gathering them, her daughter strays to an enormous house. She is warned to stay away, but that only makes her want to go more. Inside is a famous painter, and his final masterpiece. It depicts the sacrifice for which the island is named: blessed by blood. A king sacrificed himself for the good of his people. Again there is familiarity.

As we continue to follow these characters through time, we begin to see patterns emerging. The writing is compelling, but also hauntingly beautiful. The story is complex, but not to the point of confusion. The mystery unfolds slowly giving you time to draw your own conclusions, and I admit, it sparked my curiosity to do further research into the culture and mythology. When I finished the last page, I wanted to start it again. I don't know of higher praise. It was announced (yesterday) that this book won the 2014 Prinz for Excellence in Young Adult Fiction, and I couldn't agree more.
"'The theme is old, but not outdated,' he explained, feeling bewildered. 'And it refers to the island, this island, whose very name is written in blood!'
'Really?' said one of the men.
'Indeed. People think the name of this island means "blessed," and so it does, but "blessed" does not mean what people think it does. In the old tongue it was bletsian and before that blotsian, and before that, just blod. It means sacrifice.
'To bless means to sacrifice, and in blood,'" (Sedgwick pg 164, 2013).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick (April 2014)
Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
More Than This by Patrick Ness
The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

Sedgwick, M. (2013). Midwinter blood. New York: Roaring Brook Press.

A Corner of White by Jacqueline Moriarty

Madeleine's life is far from where it once was: no longer is she the jet-set daughter of a big shot with a passport full of stamps on every continent. She had a bad habit of running away when she was younger, and one night, her mother decided to come along. Now it's just the two of them living hand-to-mouth in Cambridge, and she homeschools with Jack and Belle. The only colours in her life anymore are the vibrant ones she adorns herself with, and of course, her umbrella.

In the kingdom of Cello (say chello), Colors are something else entirely. There are some (the Reds, Grays, Violets, and Yellows) that can even kill you. In fact, it was a Purple attack that killed Elliot's uncle, and (what he believes) took his father. It's been a year since he spent any real time in Cello. He's been out looking, searching for a solution to the unsolvable problem. He refuses to believe the rumors, or that his father is dead. Upon his latest return, his mother convinces him to stay for a while.

The worlds may have remained as they were, but for a corner of white. Madeleine retrieves a note from a parking meter. It's odd to say the least, but she has a lot of free time. She writes back, what's the harm? Rethinking her decision, she goes to retrieve it...but in its place is a response...from Elliot. He speaks of a place that sounds like something out of a fairy tale, and she dismisses him as a boy who plays too many video games. But she writes him back. He, in turn, continues the correspondence, informing her of what he knows of the previous connection between their two worlds. All traces have since been destroyed, and he faces great personal risk by continuing their communication...but isn't that part of the fun? Plus, he's pretty annoyed that she doesn't believe he exists!

Can these two from such very different worlds really be friends? Can Elliot help Madeleine come to grips with the reality of her life as it is now? Can Madeleine help Elliot face the Colors that may have killed his father?

So very beautifully written, many believe this is on a short list for this year's Prinz. It's the first in a series, and I warn you now: it takes a while to get going. If you can get through the slow beginning, it's worth it. The language, the character development, and the world building are very high quality. I'm looking forward to more colours of Madeline.
"'Madeleine doesn't exist",' he repeated now. 'What I sometimes think is, I sometimes think you haven't got a clue what you are talking about.'
'Nah, it's just that you can't follow the complicated pathways of my brain. It's like a labyrinth, my brain, and as beautiful as a brain can get. What I mean is, there's too much going on with Madeleine. It's like when you get every paint colour and mix them up, you end up with not a proper colour at all. Madeleine's lived in so many bloody places and she wears so many different bloody colours. You know what I mean? So she's not a proper person anymore, she's just a mess. Like she doesn't exist," (Moriarty pg. 127, 2013).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jacqueline Moriarty (The Colours of Madeline, Book 2) March 2014
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle, Book 2)
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Moriarty, Jacqueline. (2013). A corner of white. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

Mirabelle has grown up in what feels like a box. A loving, beautiful box...but a box nonetheless. Her godmothers are so over protective, they won't even let her visit her parents' graves! She can't shave with a razor, or use scissors, or drive a car, or... So, for her 16th birthday, she's got a plan. She's going on an adventure, and this time, no one is going to tell her she can't. By the time they figure out where she is (visiting her parents in Beau Rivage), it will be too late to stop her.

Setting out is easy enough, but arriving in a strange town with no idea where to start is less encouraging. The first person she meets is a horrible  boy with blue hair who threatens to throw her out of the cafe she was planning on staying in all night (like she has money for a hotel!). Luckily, a very handsome boy comes to her rescue, and offers her a place to stay. He even says he'll help her look for her parents! Oh, did I mention, he's the blue-haired boy's older brother? Beau Rivage is a strange place...

The longer she stays, the stranger it becomes. Blue (duh, blue-haired boy) introduces her to his friends: all of whom seem a little off. One is afraid of apples; one keeps spitting up what looks like petals and pearls; one keeps getting followed around by woodland creatures...not your average teenagers. It isn't until she sees a mark on one of their backs when they are swimming that she really starts to put it together. It looks surprisingly like her own - could she be involved in this whole business too?

The mystery surrounding the brothers is strangest of all, and they both refuse to tell her what is going on. In fact, they insist that they cannot tell her. She is drawn to both of them in different ways, although Blue actively pushes her away, and discourages her relationship with his brother Felix. At first she thinks it's jealousy, but could it be more? Mira is getting closer to discovering the truth, but it may be at the risk of her own safety.

It was an interesting take on the fairy tale genre, and it made the Teens' Top 10 list this year. Admittedly, the character tropes are pretty obvious, but the author doesn't try very hard to make them difficult. (Some people may disagree with me on that...) Overall I enjoyed the story, and liked the concept of a fairy tale curse through the generations. I wasn't a huge fan of the main character. She frequently made me yell out loud at her...interesting choices. Recommended for teen audiences.

*Library Link*
“It was hard to be honest, to open up, and reveal something that sounded crazy. Because once you told someone the truth, that person had a piece of you—and they could belittle it, destroy it. They could turn your confession into a wound that never healed,” (Cross, 2012). 
If you liked this, check out:
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Entwined by Heather Dixon

Cross, Sarah. (2012). Kill me softly. New York: Egmont USA.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Amy didn't know what to expect when she agreed to be cryo-frozen for 300 years, only to wake up when the ship she and her parents are traveling on arrives on a new planet. Certainly, it wasn't to be woken up violently 50 years early...but that is unfortunately what happens. She is greeted by an unfamiliar group of people who are shocked by her appearance, and unsympathetic to her plight. They tell her they can't refreeze her; she's stuck in this place without her parents, without the hope of a new world, Centauri-Earth. Her only ally is Elder.

Elder is in training to take over command of the ship. Someday he will be Eldest, and will lead the people of Godspeed. He knows that one of the sources of discord that leads to war is lack of a strong leader, and with Centauri-Earth so near, he can't let the ship down. He is fascinated by Amy and what she means to their future. What other secrets has Eldest kept from him? He never even knew about this level of the ship! An entire crew of people meant to repopulate Centauri-Earth...

After Amy is accidentally unfrozen, another body is found, but this time they are too late. The unfreezing process is botched, and the person dies. Who could be doing something like this? Elder doesn't want to suspect Eldest, but who else could it be? Who else even knows about this level?

Together, he and Amy begin to discover other secrets about the ship. Amy learns the history of the ship: all the generations born never having seen the outside world, only hearing stories of what they call "Sol-Earth." Eldest doesn't like her, or the threat she seems to pose to him, and he intentionally sets the people against her. There are other things about the ship that aren't right. Elder thinks Hitler was a good leader...and that Lincoln deported all the slaves to Africa... How can Amy explain the truth? The history has all been rewritten, even the Gettysburg Address!

In the meantime, Amy is sent to live in the hospital with the other "crazy people." She can't quite understand this, as none of them seem to be crazy at all. In fact, they seem to be more normal than most of the people she's met outside.

Something fishy is going on, and Amy is afraid that her parents could be the next frozens killed. They have to figure out who is behind it, and why! What is going on with this crazy ship!?

Revis raises some interesting questions about the dangers of space travel, how fragile written history truly is, and how easily human behavior can be manipulated. The romance is bearable. I admit I wasn't a huge fan of this. It was pretty predictable, but it is popular with my teens. It made the YALSA Top 10 last year as well.

*Library Link*
“The first cause of discord is difference. There is no religion on Godspeed. We all speak the same language. We're all monoethnic. And because we are not different, we don't fight. Remember the Crusades I taught you? The genocides? We will never have to worry about those types of horrific events on Godspeed,” (Revis, 2011). 
If you liked this, check out:
A Million Suns by Beth Revis (Across the Universe, Book 2)
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Revis, Beth. (2011). Across the Universe. New York: Razorbill., & Penguin Group.